Ecommerce - also spelled e-commerce or eCommerce - is short for 'electronic commerce' and is the process of selling products online.
It gives internet users the freedom to buy whatever they want from anywhere in the world. From clothes to furniture, pet food to houseplants, there’s nothing you can’t get on the web.
Let’s unpack everything about ecommerce and how you can get started with your own online business. 👇
What is an ecommerce business?
First off, ecommerce stores are different from ‘traditional’ retailers. There’s no brick-and-mortar store, meaning customers can’t pick up and touch products before they buy. Instead, they have to rely on your website’s product images, videos and descriptions to understand what your product or service is.
But, this does mean you can sell to pretty much anyone, anywhere in the world. Even if you do own a physical shop, having an online store opens up so many more opportunities.
What are the benefits of an ecommerce store?
Thanks to the internet, ecommerce has exploded over the last decade. In fact, it’s rare for a retailer not to have an online presence. Here are some benefits of running an ecommerce business:
Sell products internationally - as we’ve mentioned, ecommerce lets you sell internationally. After a customer purchases one of your products online, you’ll either send it from your warehouse via courier or dropship directly to their front door. If you sell exclusively online, you won’t be paying for staff to work in your stores, meaning you can focus that spend on your marketing and brand building.
Work from anywhere - you can sell from anywhere in the world. From a very basic point of view, all you need is a laptop, a good website, and a marketing plan and away you go. 🚀
Lots of tech at your fingertips - from ecommerce marketing apps to inventory management, there are loads of software products that’ll make running your ecommerce store easier. In fact, our own digital asset management tool, Dash, has been built for this very reason. 😇 Keep all your product images and brand graphics in one central location, ready to deploy to your marketing channels.
Take advantage of mobile shopping - 25% of internet users do online shopping from their mobile. That’s a lot of people. If you have an ecommerce website, you’ll easily be able to optimise it for mobile.
Gather data on your customers - the beauty of the internet means there are lots of ways you can understand your customers better. You can see what products they like best, and why they might be abandoning their shopping carts. You’ll also be able to target them with newsletters, promotions and SMS to encourage them to come back.
What are the disadvantages of ecommerce?
There aren’t many disadvantages to ecommerce, but it’s good to understand some of the challenges you might face:
Lots of competition - ecommerce is fairly easy to get started with, which means the competition is fierce. That’s why it’s recommended you choose a niche market and target your audience accordingly.
Takes longer for your audience to trust you - if you sell exclusively online, your audience can’t test out your products in-store. So you’ve got to work harder to win them over. Building trust and loyalty will come into your marketing strategy, but some things to consider are:
- Collecting customer reviews
- Posting user-generated content (UGC) to your socials
- Showcasing gorgeous product shots
- Filming product demos
Different types of ecommerce business models
There are six major ecommerce business models. Each one specifies how you trade with your end buyer. Let’s take a look at each:
Business-to-business is where you sell goods to other businesses. For example, if you sell office supplies, your core customer base will be businesses that need stationary. You’ll also get paid via the company’s finance team, rather than an individual.
Business-to-consumer is where you sell to individuals, rather than a business. In ecommerce, this is often referred to as direct-to-consumer (D2C). Payment will come from personal bank accounts, rather than a finance team.
Consumer-to-consumer is where individuals sell to other individuals, but they aren’t registered as a business. Sites that offer C2C are usually second-hand marketplaces like eBay, Gumtree and Facebook marketplace.
Consumer-to-business isn’t a typical business model - but it’s still valuable nonetheless. An example of C2C is when a customer writes a review or participates in customer research in return for an incentive.
Like it says on the tin, B2G is where private businesses sell products and services to the government. This could be a software company creating new tech systems for the public health sector. Typically, private companies land government projects by bidding on requests for proposals (RPFs).
This one is a bit of a mouthful, but B2B2C is when a business sells to another business whose intention is to sell directly to the consumer. Examples of B2B2C partnerships include wholesalers who sell to retailers. The retailer will then sell directly to the consumer. B2B2C is a collaborative partnership that benefits everyone involved.
Top platforms for your ecommerce website
If you’re thinking of launching an ecommerce store, you’ll need a website. Luckily, there are lots of ecommerce platforms designed for non-web developers that’ll get you up and running in no time. Here are some of the most popular:
Shopify is one of the most popular ecommerce platforms in the world. It’s an all-in-one ecommerce hosting service, that supports you throughout your customer's entire lifecycle. From web templates to payment options, on-page SEO and product distribution, you can run your business solely through Shopify if you wanted to. There’s also an extensive app store that lets you plug into tools to help you market and sell your product. You can check out our list of Shopify apps to discover more. ✨
BigCommerce is also hugely popular amongst ecommerce brands. Like Shopify, you can set up and run your store directly through the app. BigCommerce also has lots of built-in sales features including coupon setup, digital wallets and merchandising.
For anyone using a WordPress website, you can’t go too wrong with WooCommerce. This is a plug-in that’ll transform your site into a fully functioning ecommerce store. Features include inventory management, shipping updates and secure payments.
Different ecommerce marketplaces
It doesn't end with your ecommerce website. There are loads of ecommerce marketplaces where you can buy new products for your store, or sell products to expand your audience reach. Here are some common ecommerce marketplaces for you to get started with:
- Alibaba - a B2B marketplace where wholesalers sell products to retailers. This is ideal if you don’t have the budget to produce your own goods.
- Amazon - an online marketplace used by millions of people around the world. List your products and Amazon will take care of the rest. They’ll store your inventory, package it up and distribute it to your customers. The downside to Amazon is that you have no control over the prices. You’re essentially selling to Amazon’s customers, so you’ll only get a commission on the sale.
- eBay - eBay opens your store up to thousands more customers than your website alone will. You’ll get seller protection, along with verified eBay reviews from your customers. The downside is that most eBay transactions go through PayPal. This means you’ll be charged transaction fees for each purchase.
Starting your ecommerce business
If you’re ready to launch your ecommerce business then you’ll be happy to know there are tonnes of resources on the web to help you out. You can check out some of ours below:
Your guide to ecommerce marketing strategies - marketing is key to helping people find your brand and products. In this guide, you’ll find some advice on getting started, along with examples of strategies from some of our favourite DTC / ecommerce businesses.
How to get more sales on Shopify - tips on why you might not be getting as many Shopify sales as you like and how you can improve your store.
An ecommerce guide to an influencer marketing strategy - influencers are a fantastic way to get more eyeballs on your brand, and more buyers for your products. This guide will teach you everything you need to get started.